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Subaru warms to EVs

Platform shoo: Subaru’s new Global Platform can accommodate full electrification, but it is still not talking about the first models to silently roll on it.

No electrification for immediate future but Subaru hybrids and EVs on the horizon

Subaru logo12 Sep 2016

By DANIEL GARDNER in JAPAN

SUBARU Australia is slowly coming around to the idea of plug-in hybrids and full electric vehicles and the company’s local chief says it will have to increasingly focus on electrification as 2020 approaches.

Globally, the car-maker is more accepting of the technology and has confirmed a new high-performance hybrid version of its XV SUV, but the company’s foray into electrification will not be coming Down Under, for now.

However, speaking at the first international drive of the all-new Impreza, Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior said the company’s concentration on alternative energy would build with a corresponding increase in demand for the vehicles.

“I think obviously as we get closer to 2020 we’re going to see more and more acceptance. We’re going to see more and more competitors come in with different models.

“So while we haven’t pushed for it, by the end of this decade it’s one of the things we have to look at increasing. But there’s no electric car that’s going to pop out in the next couple of years.” Mr Senior said that as rival brands continue to introduce hybrid and electric options the demand will steadily increase towards a “tipping point” and Subaru would keep a close eye on the available global offerings that it could bring to the local market as soon as the milestone is reached.

“I think we have an extremely small amount of hybrid sales but I think there will come some point where we’ll have a tipping point where it will increase quite dramatically. So you’d be silly not to be thinking about it, have it on your radar and certainly wanting to bring some models in when they do become available.” In addition to more choice, part of the increase in demand would also come from more attractive government incentives according to Mr Senior, as large fleet buyers look to build a more ethical reputation with more environmentally sensitive vehicles.

“It seems like there isn’t much interest for electric cars in Australia – from both the political side and consumers,” he said.

“I think that’s where there’s going to be a push increasingly from governments, increasingly from fleets, their corporate, social responsibility. It’s going to come because more people are going to talk about it, not just in Australia but globally.” While large fleet buyers may be attracted to more efficient vehicles, Mr Senior pointed out that private and individual buyers were less interested in being seen to buy low emissions cars, and were more likely to be driven by fuel prices, similar to the trend in the United States.

“That’s what the States is seeing at the moment. They had a big upswing in hybrid vehicles for a while.” With Australian petrol prices hovering about the $1.10 mark motorists are enjoying some of the lowest fuel prices in recent years, but an increase would likely prompt Australians to consider more frugal options.

Mr Senior did not road map any specific targets or milestones for Subaru electrification, but suggested that electric and hybrid models would feature in the line-up as more than single-figure sales within a decade.

“But we are seeing a transformation in many areas, some of this is a bit slower at the moment, but there is no doubt in 2025 a percentage of our sales are going to be from electrics, hybrids, whatever you want to speculate,” he said.

“So I imagine from here through to 2025 you’re going to see a bit of a change. Just as the ownership patterns are changing and changing a lot quicker than people think.”

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